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Awaiting Libyan developments

As history shows it is rather hard to forecast the course of civil war and international intervention in Libya. It seemed that Muammar Qaddafi driven into a corner by rebel forces managed to quickly mobilize foreign mercenaries, which gave his sons the time necessary to regain control over major part of the armed forces. But Qaddafi’s counter-offensive against the lost eastern provinces also got bogged down due to intervention of the Western coalition forces. Now the second wave of revolts may start with rebels supported by the US and European air forces taking back control over cities they retreated from in March 2011.

Three main scenarios of developments can be singled out on the basis of previous military interventions of the USA and its allies.

The first one is an Iraqi scenario. It stipulates a ground campaign with complete overthrow of Qaddafi’s regime and an attempt to set up a new regime in Libya that will be loyal to the West. This variant should be considered unlikely as Western nations are not ready for numerous casualties unavoidable during a land operation.

The second scenario is like it was in Afghanistan. It stipulates large-scale air strikes combined with land operations; but the major offensive on the ground is to be carried out by rebels, i.e. the force in civil war that the West supports. In the Afghan case this force was Northern Alliance opposed to the Taliban; in the Libyan case this will be Qaddafi’s opponents in Benghazi. This variant should be also viewed as not very likely first of all due to insufficient fighting capacity of the Libyan rebels. But this scenario should not be completely ruled out especially if the forces loyal to Qaddafi start to go over to the opposition like it was at the beginning of civil war.

The third is the Serbian scenario. It stipulates massive air strikes followed by a compromise proposed to the leader of the regime under attack – to retain Qaddafi’s rule in part of the country in exchange for secession of mutinous regions (Kirenaiki, Eastern Libya). This variant is the most probable, as it will enable Western politicians to avoid a ground campaign and report to their voters about successful protection of rebels against the dictator. There is likely to be an attempt to add the country’s main oil center, the city of Ras Lanuf on the seacoast in the center of the country, to Eastern Libya and establish new hydrocarbons production and logistic facilities there. But long-term loyalty of new authorities in Kirenaiki to the West is not guaranteed; strong anti-West sentiments remain a permanent and stable factor in the Middle East politics.

By Stanistav Mitrakhovich, NESF leading expert

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